Friday, August 23, 2013

Nats still grinding it out

USA Today Sports Images
CHICAGO — There was the 2-hour rain delay before the game ever began. There were the misplays across the diamond, with three of the four infielders either bench players or manning an unfamiliar position. And, of course, there was the gut-punch of Stephen Strasburg serving up the game-tying homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, forcing extra innings and the club's second 4-hour game in five days.

Yet the Nationals somehow emerged from all of that with a victory on Thursday, a 5-4, 13-inning triumph over the Cubs that required every ounce of fortitude this team still had in its reserve tank.

"It was pretty unbelievable, but for us to come back like that, that's huge," said Drew Storen, who wound up earning the save. "That's an easy game to just feel sorry for yourself, but we grinded it out. It wasn't the prettiest, but we got the win."

That's the way things are these days for the Nationals. Nothing is coming easily to this team, but every time it looks like Davey Johnson's squad is going to fold, it finds a way to keep fighting.

They're not gaining any ground in the standings — the Nats remain 14 games behind the Braves in the NL East, 9 1/2 games behind the Reds in the NL Wild Card race — but they are enjoying their best stretch in a while, having now won nine of their last 13.

And three of their four losses during this stretch have been by one run, including Rafael Soriano's blown save against the Giants eight days ago.

"There's a lot of heart on this ballclub," Johnson said. "I don't worry about that."

Make no mistake, the Nationals have plenty of flaws. The bullpen is being pieced together with chewing gum and duct tape, and those who are pitching well are exhausted at this point.

The lineup still struggles to produce in big moments, squandering scoring opportunities left and right.

The bench remains less-than-ideal, resulting in a scenario Thursday in which the Nationals had Anthony Rendon at shortstop, Steve Lombardozzi at second base and Tyler Moore at first base. That nearly turned into a defensive disaster.

But they found a way to win, scoring the winning run in the top of the 13th on Chad Tracy's swinging bunt, then watching as Storen got a double-play to end the game in the bottom of the inning and send this team off to Kansas City with a 63-64 record.

It's probably too late to result in a dramatic run toward a playoff berth. But if you thought the Nationals were going to pack it in and just play out the stretch, you were sorely mistaken.

"We're not just gonna roll over, take a loss," Rendon said. "We're trying to go out there every game and get a W. That's the way the game is, that's the way we're trying to play. We're trying to play hard."

Not that anyone would complain about a run-of-the-mill, simple, nine-inning victory, of course.

"It's draining, but it's also gratifying in a different sense," Storen said. "Ideally we just play nine innings, get on the plane and go. But it tests you. That's when you really learn something about yourself. Grind-it-out victories on the road, that's never easy. But in the end it probably means a little bit more."

37 comments:

Doc said...

Not sure how they fix defense for next year, but it's got to improve for the Nats to play serious baseball.

Last year they did everything right--up until Game 5.

NatsLady said...

Well, it's fun to watch, anyway. A lot better than feeling the game is over if they blow a lead or give up a run in the first inning.

natsfan1a said...

Agreed, NL.

JD said...



Rizzo should give serious consideration to taking a hit on Soriano's contract and letting him go. I think that his signing was his single biggest mistake and his leaving will have positive effects throughout the pitching staff.I don't believe he will do it unless someone eats a large portion of that salary but if Soriano comes back as the closer I don't expect good things to follow.

It's OK to work on BP depth kind of what Pittsburgh did by adding Melancon but it's not ok to demote a young closer whose only real sin was failing to close out game 5 and replacing him with someone whose pedigree is B- and whose talent level is below the man he is replacing.

SCNatsFan said...

JD in theory that is fine but then who closes? Please don't say Storen, he who was (rightfully) sent back to AAA.

Joe Seamhead said...

I'm still having a blast watching our team. I feel bad for some on here that react so emotionally violently to seemingly every pitch, swing and inning. It's been said for many years that baseball is a game of failure. Some baseball fans have a most difficult time dealing with the failure when they aren't the ones playing. I still feel that we have the nucleus of a good team, though the year has been disappointing to say the least. I still feel strongly that a good organization is being constructed. Additionally, I think that the whole game day experience is just going to keep getting better and better because of all of the boom that is happening around the park. And that will expand, and accelerate when the soccer complex is built over at Buzzard's Point. We have much to look forward to, in my opinion.

Steady Eddie said...

NL -- Yes, much better. Their capacity for late-inning offense recently is a positive trend, whether for this season or next. Seemed to start recently with coming back from that 4-0 deficit against the Phillies -- biggest margin overcome this season, which illustrates how bad the offense has been relative to most other teams and last year -- and we've had more add-on runs in late innings lately as well, which is also a welcome change from the "score a few early and then go to sleep" routine.

The most important thing, regardless of specific outcomes the rest of this season, is that the young core players recapture the sense that it's truly not over till it's over -- on both sides of the game. And that goes for pitchers as well as the offense. The later inning bullpen meltdowns or lapses after many innings of dominance can't be eliminated but they sure need to be cut down as a sign of loss of focus. (Not just the obvious with Soriano or yesterday, but the repeated chipping away when we do get a big lead.)

NatsLady said...

Our new minor-league pitcher. Should fit right in.

The Whitewall Ninja

http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130702&content_id=52469546&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb&sid=milb

Joe Seamhead said...

It's also way past time for this MASN situation to get settled. I'm not saying the the Lerners will be giving anything away to us, but one has to believe that if they were to get a fair media deal then we, the fans, are going to also benefit.

JD said...


SCNatsfan,

You nailed it - Drew Storen should close. If Soriano is back next year he should behind both Storen and Clippard on the depth chart.

NatsLady said...

You have to admit, like it or not, that Atlanta has been amazing this year. They have overcome injuries, and incredibly bad performance by BJ Upton, and a lot of other stuff. Unlike LA or NY, they didn't have funds to go out and buy replacements. They made smart pickups (e.g., that lefty reliever, Downs).

They made it their priority to win the division, and hence, to crush their division rival, the Nats. Yes, they had a lot of good luck, unexpected players threw up great stats (which happened to us last year). But they also toughed it out.

I don't think they will go very far in the playoffs, especially with the Heyward injury--who knows how well he will be able to hit when he returns. But barring an epic, truly epic collapse, they won the Division fair and square.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

LOL. NL - great find. The Nats can finally get rid of that GEICO signage and replace it with a Carvel ad if the "White Ninja" makes it to DC. I like the guy already.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

"It's also way past time for this MASN situation to get settled."

Amen. I have been hoping that the new Fox sports channel would provide a catalyst for a settlement where everybody can win.

3on2out said...

Nats Lady:

Still got your hat. How do you want to get it?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NatsLady, you are correct about Atlanta. Great B & B and best in the Majors.

The big difference I see is that they paid BJUpton a ton of money and still weren't afraid to bench him and Chris Johnson while lousy on defense is near the tops in BA. Freddie Freeman is the star. He can do it all and he is flat out smart. Simple contact with RISP. I don't like him but I respect him.

Unfortunately for them their starters aren't good.

NatsLady said...

3on2out--will you be at any games this weekend? I will be there Sunday (and I hope Friday).

m said...

Joe Seam....: Quite frankly the positive posters are just as annoying as the negative posters. It would be refreshing if you restricted your comments to the team and not some poster who has a different opinion than yours. Everyone has an opinion so stop belittling those who differ from yours. Some of your posts have been real classics so i would not be one to cast aspersions on others.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Doc, real easy to see where the problems are on defense. According to FanGraphs, Nats corner infielders rank at the bottom of 3rd base and 2nd to last at 1st base.

NatsLady said...

Thing is, the Nats started out the spring with every expectation of a good infield defense, RZ, Desi, Danny, ALR.

RZ--the impact of his shoulder was WAY more than expected.
Desi--early errors, although fixed, hampered the spring.
Danny--offense meant he was sent down, and a trainee took his place.
ALR--I sincerely think he has some physical illness that has impacted both his offense and defense.

Candide said...

And then there's this:

Is Cal thinking about managing the Nats?

Okay, he's never even managed in the minors, or even (like Don Mattingly), been a coach.

But still...

3on2out said...

This weelend they are in KC. My next game is Wednesday the 28th and perhaps Friday the 30th.
If you want to send me your snail mail address at 3on2out@gmail.com I can mail it to you...

hiramhover said...

NatsLady

Great observations about ATL, and I'm with Ghost on Upton. I never wanted Upton in the off-season, and that sentiment is only stronger now - I doubt they would have had the cojones to do what the Barves did with him when he underperformed.

As for the IF defense - Rendon I'm not worried about. This is what you get when you give a guy a crash course introduction to a new position at the major league level. But he has the tools to do it.

The corner IF spots are trickier. I expect ALR and Zimm to start 2014 where they are now. What happens after that depends on whether Zimm rebounds and whether ALR stays a Nat all season long.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Soriano if not closing is useless; he'll make sure of that. I agree he needs to go. Inasmuch as everyone on the list agrees the Lerners have more money than Buffet it isn't the money so much as the mediocrity; if you could count on him to pull on the oars just as hard in the seventh inning as the ninth you could live with it. But I don't think you can. I think Storen has put the worst of it behind him. He might never be an elite closer again but he could get them through a season or two so long as you're not counting on him to close out four playoff games in a row. Either one of them would put a lot of runners on base but Storen has the stuff to get strike outs and pop ups.

Holden Baroque said...


m said...

Joe Seam....: Quite frankly the positive posters are just as annoying as the negative posters. It would be refreshing if you restricted your comments to the team and not some poster who has a different opinion than yours. Everyone has an opinion so stop belittling those who differ from yours. Some of your posts have been real classics so i would not be one to cast aspersions on others.


I agree, the feuding and poking got old a long, long time ago, and we have spent way too much time in here talking about how to talk in here. That said, Joe was only saying he felt bad for them, not that they should stop posting. I don't feel bad for them, because I don't care, but I don't see the point in saying "Soriano SUCKS!" six times every post, and it really is boring and pointless, which is why most of the intelligent posters have left.

The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. said...

There's a much better chance of Cal or someone else from outside the organization managing the Nats next year than there is of Randy Knorr.

JaneB said...

I was flying when this game was played but MAN am I glad they put in Drew at the end there instead of Soriano. I hope this is a sign that the team sees a good mechanical and mental change in Drew and that we can go back to Drew as usual again.

Nice photo of Zook. LAST photo of Zook.

Holden Baroque said...

JaneB, Soriano finished the ninth for Strasburg, so he wasn't available in the 13th.

TexNat said...

Defense has not been great. But lets not lose sight of the fact that its the hitting that remains the number one area for improvement. In fact, if you were to list the top ten things that this team needs to get better at, the first seven are hitting.

MrsB loves the Nats said...

I hope it is a no to Cal and to Randy...

Theophilus T. S. said...

Cal Ripken would be an extremely demanding manager. I doubt he would be a good mix for this team, where everybody appears to insist on going their own way and thinks they know everything there is to know about playing their position and swinging their bat -- even when the results prove otherwise. The Orioles, who've probably been yelled at by Showalter until their ears are red as lobsters, are probably a better fit; they seem to respond to it and Ripken would be more of the same but a different voice. But at the moment they don't need him.

Sandburg would have been a good choice. I see him as a manager who wouldn't insist on teaching each player to play his position "the Sandburg way" but just that they play the game like grownups. There would have been some very interesting dugout confrontations.

baseballswami said...

One of the problems I have with Soriano is his seeming lack of flexibility. I feel that everyone in a bullpen, any team, has to be on board with any role, any inning. That doesn't mean they don't have a preferred role or a usual role, but they have to be open to other roles as the game dictates.Or maybe a 4 or 5 out save. I see Sori as a one trick pony. And the trick is not all that great. I also feel that he is a Mariano Rivera wanna-be. But without the skills, the personality, the...well, you see what I mean. If he were to return with a different mindset next season, as Drew was expected to,then ok. I also feel that stuff-wise, Drew's is better. Sori has more experience and was supposed to have better command. That may have changed. I have always felt that Drew was our closer of the future and I hope that still happens. I hope Mattheus recovers his previous form because that sinker appears to be very tough to hit when he is on his game.

baseballswami said...

And as for the bench guys who played yesterday -- some people were predicting an outright disaster. They held their own offensively and for the most part, defensively. It's not like our regular players don't make errors. A couple of those plays were tough ones. You cannot just assume they would have been outs. And Rendon still makes errors at second as well, but was playing an unfamiliar role. Some struggles might have been expected. Rendon and Lombo made some very good plays also. And -- we did win the game. Not like our A team is perfect or anything. They did just fine, considering there were 3 of them.

Whynat said...

When I was a kid, my mom gave me this advice: "If you want to be happy, spend your time with positive people."

I think it is pretty good advice. (Full disclosure, I was neither happy nor postitive when Stas gave up the dinger last night.) They got a another game tonight. GYFNG?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Getting close to the time to complete the DeJesus waiver trade to Tampa. We should hear shortly. I hear Rizzo is pushing hard for a prospect if he will eat a lot of cash!

Theophilus T. S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Secret wasian man said...

Heard mark today on 980. Not happy with 25 and 10. I'm really looking for 34 and 1

Secret wasian man said...

The best reason to have Cal manage would be to stick it to Angelo's and all the Baltimorons.

Post a Comment